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SFU named #1 in global university ranking for impact on sustainable cities and communities

Simon Fraser University ranks number one globally for its impact on sustainable cities and communities, and is among the world’s top 10 universities for its commitment to tackling climate change, according to Times Higher Education’s (THE) 2020 University Impact Rankings. The rankings measure global universities’ social and economic contributions toward meeting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs.

Overall, SFU ranks 19th in the world among more than 760 institutions from 85 countries. The rankings also place SFU in the top five globally for its response to peace, justice and strong institutions, and in the top 10 for its’ commitment to researching life below water and supporting aquatic ecosystems.

“As Canada’s engaged university, we have made it our mission to help build healthy, resilient and sustainable communities,” says SFU President Andrew Petter. “It is especially gratifying, therefore, to now be recognized as a world leader. This success is testament to the commitment of our staff, faculty and students to make sustainability a priority on our campuses and in the communities we serve.”

The UN’s SDGs address global challenges for well-being and good health, quality education, gender equality, building sustainable cities and communities, climate change and other critical issues that the world currently faces. The rankings’ indicators provide comparisons across three broad areas, including research, outreach and stewardship.

More information about SFU’s top rankings:

#1 in Sustainable Cities & Communities

SFU’s number one ranking reflects a commitment across its three campuses to provide a sustainable environment for those who work and live as part of the university community, with ongoing efforts to minimize its environmental footprint through infrastructure sustainability. New buildings are built to sustainable standards, with the newest, a second campus building in Surrey, as a living showcase for sustainable building standards. SFU’s new student union building, and phase one of its residence building, both nearing completion, are also targeting Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold certification.

The university also plays a key role in the preservation of culture and the cultural life of communities with access to numerous public buildings, museums and cultural spaces. The Vancouver campus just celebrated 30 years as the intellectual heart of downtown Vancouver, with research topreserve Indigenous language and heritage, and SFU Woodward’s cultural programs connecting communities as two examples of SFU’s cultural contributions.

A new Burnaby campus art museum, set to open in 2022, will enrich the cultural landscape and help the public gain an appreciation and understanding of modern and contemporary art across B.C. and Canada.

#4 in Peace, Justice & Strong Institutions

As Canada’s engaged university, SFU is an active community partner, helping to facilitate productive conversations about issues of public concern through initiatives such as SFU Public Square.

SFU subject matter experts actively work with governments, businesses and consumers to help shape domestic and international policy. Research units, like the Energy and Materials Research Group, are working with the Government of Canada and industry associations to analyze technologies, strategies, behaviour and policies that can lead to a more sustainable flow of energy and materials in society.

SFU Health Sciences experts are also currently advising local governments and the World Health Organization on COVID-19 data analysis and modelling.

#7 in supporting local & aquatic ecosystems

SFU teaching, research and outreach supports aquatic ecosystems. These initiatives include the Pacific Water Research Centre, which promote and mobilizes research addressing water issues from local to international communities, with a focus on adapting to climate change, building resilience and water security. Research labs such as the Coastal Marine Ecology and Conservation Lab are committed to studying and advancing local ecosystem management.

#9 in Climate Action

Aligned with the UN objective of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, SFU’s efforts to reduce its greenhouse gas emission through strategic planning, energy saving measures and behavioral changes in energy use are reflected in a continued decrease of the universities’ GHG emissions, as SFU remains on track to reduce its emissions in keeping with the province’s target. Initiatives, such as the Corix Biomass plant on Burnaby Mountain slated to begin operations this fall, will further drive down emissions. Other goals include decreased energy use of two per cent annually.

SFU’s Adaptation to Climate Change Team, focuses on developing timely policies for sustainable climate change impacts, and collaboration with the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS). The new schools of Sustainable Energy Engineering (SEE) and Environmental Science target the critical need for skilled graduates in the emerging fields.

SFU recently released its five-year Strategic Sustainability Plan that aims to mobilize the entire institution to embed climate action throughout its operations, research, academics and community engagement.


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